By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
The Beermen were heavily favoured to ease past the Slammers in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Playoffs but their 16-game win streak from the regular season came to a screeching halt in Thursday's post-season 62-60 opening loss.
Chris Charles starred for the Slammers with 24 points as Joe Bryant's men stole a road win in their best-of-five semi-final with Leo Austria's Beermen.
Leo Avendio's triple got the ABL Playoffs 2013 off and running, but it did not turn out to be the opening the Ynares Antipolo crowd had been expecting.
Former Beerman Froilan Baguion (eight assists in total) shone early with four dimes in the opening quarter including a great look inside for Charles to make it 10-5 to the visitors, plus the foul. The 7-foot centre would miss the free-throw but at that point the Slammers were on a roll and a Baguion bucket in transition followed by Kannawat Lertlaaokul's pull-up jumper made it a seven point game with 4:47 left.
This prompted Beermen coach Leo Austria to bring in star point-guard Chris Banchero, who has missed the last six games with a torn tendon in his left quadricep, and it helped restore order to the contest for the time being.
His four quick points as the quarter drew to a close, including a buzzer beating lay-up, levelled the scores at 17-17 after one quarter.
The Slammers are made of stern stuff with Bryant at the helm and they jumped back out to a 26-20 lead midway through the second quarter on the back of a three-point play by Charles.
Paulo Hubalde did respond immediately for the Beermen with a three, but Charles was a man on a mission to get the win and his 15th point of the night with 3:11 to go before half-time forced coach Austria into a timeout with his side trailing 31-25.
The Thais eventually had to settle for a five point lead as both teams went into the dressing room at the half.
Amazingly, the Beermen were outrebounded 25-20 to the Slammers after two quarters but with three fouls to his name Bryant opted to keep Charles (13 rebounds in total) on the bench for the start of the third period.
San Miguel import Brian Williams (12 points, 10 rebounds) benefited with four quick points but even without Charles the Thais were getting plenty of contribution from their local players especially through Lertlaokul's handy 10 points.
Charles did check in with less than four minutes to go in the third and Bryant's faith in his local players paid off as their lead did not suffer in the American's absence.
There was a scary point for Darrius Brannon (eight points, 10 rebounds) when the Slammer collapsed to the floor with a leg injury while up the other end of the court Asi Taulava's long pass for Justin Williams (12 points, 12 rebounds) to finish made it a three point game with two and a half minutes till the start of the final period.
Taulava really struggled for over three quarters but with Brannon out injured, coach Austria wasted no time in getting the ball to the 40-year-old in isolation and one-v-one against the smaller Sukhdave Ghogar.
Taulava easily turned Ghogar in the low-post to score his first two points of the night late in the third and added another four more points in the final quarter which became a classic Playoff battle with both teams fighting tooth and nail for defensive stops.
Brannon returned midway through the fourth but he could do nothing to stop Banchero's athletic lay-up to drop in against Baguion and one.
He missed the bonus point - still his effort at least gave the Beermen back the lead at 54-53 with 4:32 left.
Then an instinctive play by Charles gave the Slammers the one-point advantage. The former Villanova University player caught Baguion's airballed three point attempt under the basket and flipped it up and over his defender to score as the shot clock expired.
Charles almost undid all his good work, though, with 1:38 remaining in the game by making only one of two free-throws but it did tie things up at 58 apiece.
However, when B. Williams failed to control an offensive rebound it handed the initiative back to the visitors with 36.6 seconds to go.
The referees tagged J. Williams with an off the ball foul on Brannon on the next play but the import split his free-throws.
Baguion was sent to the line shortly after with 16.3 seconds left and he also only made one of two to make it 60-58 to the Thais.
From the restart, the ball was lobbed over to Banchero and he turned on his afterburners to get to the hoop in a hurry and draw the contact from Brannon.
The San Miguel guard knocked down both free-throws, and with 13 seconds on clock the game as all-square at 60-60 but it was Slammers ball.
Baguion took the inbounds pass, but got the ball back and then drove straight for the basket before kicking it out to an open Apiromvilaichai to seal the win with a two point jump shot.
Banchero finished with 13 points in the loss.
Game 2 is Saturday in the Philippines with the Beermen trailing the series 1-0.
Quarter scoring: Q1(17-17) Q2(14-19) Q3(11-11) Q4(18-15)
Full-Time: Beermen 60-62 Slammers
San Miguel Beermen: Banchero - 13, B. Williams - 12, J. Williams - 12
Sports Rev Thailand Slammers: Charles - 24, Lertlaaokul - 10, Brannon - 8